The first wave of free agency was an active one for the Chicago Bears, but they weren’t alone in their business when the new league year began. In fact, you don’t have to look further than the Bears’ biggest rivals to know that the landscape of the league has changed recently.
The Green Bay Packers parted ways with wide receiver Jordy Nelson, but used the cash savings to add tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson.
The Minesotta Vikings big-ticket item was quarterback Kirk Cousins, but defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is also an impact move for one of the league’s best defenses.
Take a step back at the NFC North as a whole, and you could argue that the moves made elsewhere in the division could have as big of an impact on who the Bears draft as Chicago’s own moves.
With that in mind, let’s explore the latest mock drafts.
- After seeing the Vikings and Packers add Richardson and Wilkerson to bolster their respective defenses, it’s becoming much easier to justify drafting an interior lineman with a top-10 pick. With that in mind, Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz has the Bears drafting Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the eighth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Nelson would be the latest addition to an offense that has already been upgraded at wide receiver and tight end. Not only could Nelson help shore up the middle and protect Mitch Trubisky, he could find himself clearing running room for Jordan Howard in this new scheme. At this point, there aren’t too may arguments against taking Nelson if he is on the board.
- But what happens if Nelson is gone by the time the Bears are on the clock? That’s a great question and I’m glad there are other mock drafts that could provide some praise-worthy answers. In one example, Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times has Nelson being selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the sixth pick after their weekend trade with the Jets. An early run on quarterbacks almost drops North Carolina State pass rusher Bradley Chubb into the Bears’ laps, but he goes to the Buccaneers one pick earlier. That still leaves Chicago in an advantageous spot where Jahns has them choosing Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Bears don’t have a dire need in the secondary, but Fitzpatrick’s talent and versatility would make him the best player available in this situation. The Crimson Tide used Fitzpatrick everywhere on the gridiron. Considering the passing options Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, and Matthew Stafford have at their disposal, the Bears could use all the secondary help they can get.
- Fitzpatrick isn’t the only defensive back worth taking at that spot. Dan Kadar of SB Nation has a recent mock draft that has Nelson going seventh to the Bucs and the Bears passing on Fitzpatrick with pick No. 8. Instead, Kadar sends Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward to Chicago. The Bears would have their choice of top-tier defensive draft prospect with Ward, Fitzpatrick, Florida State safety Derwin James, and Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith, among others. Because of the passing offenses mentioned above, Ward wouldn’t necessarily be a luxury item for the Bears after the team re-signed Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller. Besides, it never hurts to get younger at cornerback.
- Should the Bears choose to address their new biggest need, perhaps Chris Trapasso’s mock draft at CBS Sports is one that would send the Bears in the right direction. Trapasso has the team taking Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds with the eighth pick. Edmunds is as athletic as they come and a solid run defender whose versatility could make him an impact defender. Edmunds’ pass-rushing ability is raw, but defensive coordinator Vic Fangio could mold him in to a fearsome edge defender to put opposite of Leonard Floyd. With that in mind, Bucky Brooks’ updated mock draft at NFL.com also has the Bears taking Edmunds eighth.
- After signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, we’ll be hard-pressed to find a mock draft where the Bears take a wide receiver with the eighth overall pick. This doesn’t mean they won’t take one later, though. For example, WalterFootball.com has a seven-round mock draft in which the Bears draft Southern Miss receiver Korey Robertson in the fourth round. And over at BearsWire, Bryan Perez has the team taking Memphis’ Anthony Miller in the fourth round and Equanimeous St. Brown in the seventh. When it comes to pass-catching targets, I say “the more, the merrier!”